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State AG: Required reporting of deadly use of force is 'long overdue'

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has issued recommendations on transparency when police use deadly force.
Elaine Thompson
The Associated Press
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has issued recommendations on transparency when police use deadly force.

The public, and state lawmakers, should have easy access to data about the police use of deadly force.

So says Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who released a report today outlining reforms and calling for more transparency in information surrounding incidents where police discharge their firearms or are involved in incidents that result in death or serious injury.

A 13-page report from Ferguson calls for the creation of a website with easy-to-understand information on such incidents. It also calls on lawmakers to require police agencies to report all uses of deadly force through an FBI program created last year. It’s voluntary, and Ferguson’s office says right now, only 10 percent of Washington police agencies participate.

Other reforms include auditing of the data at the state level, and that armed personnel who aren’t law enforcement officers, such as private security guards, be required to report use of deadly force through the Department of Licensing.

You can read the report in its entirety. State lawmakers requested the recommendations from Ferguson’s office last year. But it also follows Ferguson’s announcement that he’ll review 30 cases from just this year in which police injured or killed people.

“It is extremely important that for cases like this, that we have full transparency for the public,” he told KNKX last week. “That way the public knows there’s accountability and individuals can draw their own conclusions on what happened.”

A spokesperson with the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs said in a statement to KNKX that the nonprofit has supported similar policy for more than three years.  

“The establishment of a statewide database of incidents that involve deadly force has been among our top legislative priorities since 2017,” Barbara Smith wrote in an email. “Now that the Attorney General has issued this report, we look forward to his active support of this legislation. The establishment of this database is long overdue.”   

It will be up to the Legislature and governor to act on Ferguson’s latest recommendations.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.